Yemen: Say Hello to Connect

Inspired by internet cafe culture, Yemen: Say Hello to Connect is a travelling digital artwork exploring the interconnected themes of the humanitarian crisis through voice interactive storytelling and generative art. Commissioned by Imperial War Museum North and FutureEverything, the aim was to use digital technology to engage public audiences in dialogue about the crisis in public spaces across Manchester and encourage further visits to the ‘Yemen Inside a Crisis’ exhibition at IWMN exhibition.

The piece was a collaboration with spoken word artist Amerah Saleh and creative technologist Chris Ball, we also worked with KUNSTRUCT to realise the project within a physical pop-up structure. Reflecting curatorial content from the gallery exhibition and working closely with the IWMN team, the pop-up digital artwork explored interconnected themes of food and water insecurity, childhood and education, and transport and infrastructure through a storytelling narrative experienced through headphones and voice responsive visuals.

R&D_

I undertook early research into Yemen’s digital infrastructure, learning that before the crisis there had been an explosion of internet cafe culture, a  burgeoning economy for young independent business and how these cafes also acted as safe meeting spaces for women. Houthi rebels had seized control of internet pipelines in major cities across Yemen, so access and control of the internet was a contested and political area. Starting with the idea of an internet cafe, I wanted to somehow reflect this need for direct connection and create a physical pop up space people could come into and connect digitally via the network. Aesthetically I was inspired by nineties cyber cafe, vaporwave vistas and synthwave.

CONNECTING THROUGH STORYTELLING_

The conflict is an extremely complex and sensitive subject area and it was really important to consider tone and balance, working with Amerah and the Yemeni Community was key to thinking how we could best connect to the stories and realities experienced by everyday people. Amerah’s storytelling brought these experiences to life in a personal one on one dialogue, where we encouraged people to ‘take a moment out of their busy day’. The narrative journey begins when a user places headphones on and speaks into the microphone, saying ‘Hello’ to connect, triggering the opening narrative sequence that builds a picture of the crisis followed by an unfolding narrative with accompanying collage imagery.

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LIVE POP UPS_

Pop up events took place at Piccadilly Train Station, Great Northern Warehouse, University of Manchester and HATCH. Each location had a different activations including with live performances and conversation cafes. We connected with the Yemeni Community Association in Manchester with Amerah Amerah running spoken word sessions with youth groups building towards a live performance at Manchester’s Piccadilly Train Station. Our partners Reform Radio supported us at our launch at HATCH and broadcast a live ‘Into Continental’ show hosted by Dr Mystery with live poetry, interviews and Yemeni soundtrack.

TECHNOLOGY & INTERACTIVITY_

The interactive aspect of the piece encouraged users to put themselves in the place of Yemeni citizens and answer provocations, simply questions such as “How do you use water everyday?” or “What would you stop doing first if your water was limited?”. Your verbal response used voice recognition to trigger images on screen, creating a uniquely personal generative sequence in real time. To construct the digital piece, ensure connectivity and create the voice response interactivity I worked with Chris Ball, we tested various modes of voice recognition, creating word libraries for possible word combinations and keywords that related to collaged imagery. User testing took place at Manchester Technology Centre and each pop up ran four stations using mobile wifi networks. This verbal dialogue with the narrator asks us to consider the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues Yemeni people are facing. To bring the reality of the situation home, the artwork poses difficult questions for us to consider in the context of our own lives:

 

The live pop up events took place between May and September 2019. The piece was shortlisted for SXSW 2020. You can read more about the project on the commissioners sites here: FutureEverything and Imperial War Museum North

Special thanks to the team Jacquie Reich, Claire Shaw, Joe Ford, Jez Houghton, Joe Whitmore, Irini Papadimitriou and Camilla Thomas.

Sonic Futures Documentary

My work was featured in new SONIC FUTURES: HOW TECHNOLOGY IS GUIDING MUSIC documentary from FACTmag and British Council Music.

Images and information about the documentary

The British Council and FACT have released a new mini-documentary about British technological innovation in electronic music that explores how contemporary UK artists are looking to the past, present and future to create new sounds and utopian spaces.
Sonic Futures: How Technology is Guiding Electronic Music speaks to several British artists at the cutting edge of composition, coding, engineering and performance: sound artist and DIY musical interface builder Vicky Clarke; producer Lee Gamble; composer and hacker Venus Ex Machina; interdisciplinary artist and Algorave musician Lizzie Wilson aka digital selves; and queer club collective Tremors.
https://www.factmag.com/2019/10/22/sonic-futures-how-technology-is-guiding-electronic-music/
The film explores how contemporary UK artists are using machines and code to facilitate new forms of collaboration, whether musicians should be afraid of machine learning and artificial intelligence’s movement into composition, and how music technology has the power to liberate individuals and bring marginalised communities together.

“In terms of the British history of electronic music we’re a nation of hobbyists and tinkerers and we like to build and make things,” says Manchester-based sound artist Clarke, whose DIY physical interfaces for controlling digital sound are part of a dialogue with the UK’s electronic music history spanning back to the foundation of the pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958.

Produced by FACT in association with the British Council
Directed by Anoushka Seigler
Edited by Kamil Dymek
Shot by Pawel Ptak and Pedro Kuster
AI: More Than Human footage courtesy of Barbican
Archive footage courtesy of BBC
Program advisors – Claire Lobenfeld and John Twells

 

MATERIALITY: Sound Sculpture to interface the physical and digital in music making


MATERIALITY explored sound sculpture as a medium to interface physical materials with Ableton music software via Arduino and DIY electronics. Bringing together my love of field recordings, electronics and electronic music production, I researched the sonic and conductive properties of glass and metal materials at London Sculpture Studio and the National Glass Centre resulting in new resonant sculptural instruments and new physical/digital performance system. I collaborated with researchers at the National Graphene Institute to develop a capacitive controller for Ableton and created an industrial musique concrete sample library from the processes of working with the materials. I performed with the graphene interface at Music Tech Fest Stockholm, Access Space and DINA in Sheffield and was featured on the Composer-Curator Sound and Music Podcast. Full project research blog here.

SWARM: Play the light of the city

Noise Orchestra were commissioned by ENLIGHT: European Light Expression Network to create ‘SWARM: Play the light of the city’, a sound walk where users are provided with portable Noise Machines that respond to light in the urban environment. These walks took place in 2018 at Rome Media Art Festival, SPECTRA Aberdeen and Manchester Science Festival.  Participants form a walking electronic drone orchestra, re-framing their relationship to architecture, the urban environment and spatial acoustics. The Noise Machines sample the environment and can pitch bend with light, they also have three light dependent waveform generators for synthesis in the environment. Technology was developed on residency at Pervasive Media Studios, Bristol, Fondazione Mondo Digitale in Rome and Eagle Labs, Salford. Read more about the project development here.

 

Edit 02 >THREAD{}

In 2018 our generative textile collective >Thread{} produced Edit 02: Thread, our first major solo exhibition at The Lowry exploring digital and analogue methodologies of socially engaged practice to coincide with Arts Council England’s first national socially engaged art conference. The installation was a large scale digital quilt made through participants who had worked with data bending, glitch art, screenprinting and generative art formed by their pulse readings. Visitors could interact in real time with our Wave Clock twitter bot, lie on the quilt and listen to the soundscape made from found sounds from the screen printing art process. Read more about the project here

Journey Through the Mirror Pool

Journey Through the Mirror Pool is a nine minute multi-channel sound installation that take audiences on a sonic descent from Bradford’s town hall clock through the surface of the mirror pool to the mechanical underbelly of drones and industrial pumps. The installation is part of SuperSenses exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum 2017. Created with Alan Dunn and Danny Saul.

RECORDINGS

Work for creating Journey through the Mirror Pool began with a two day recording session led by sound recordist Chris Watson and with Alan Dunn and students from Leeds Beckett University recording sounds around Bradford using contact mics, hydrophones, bat detectors, electromagnetic frequency detectors and other recording equipment. The aim was to unveil hidden sounds that are normally inaudible, or usually undetectable to the everyday ear without specialist listening or recording equipment.

CONCEPT

bonseaThe Mirror Pool is a public leisure destination in the centre of Bradford (it’s the largest urban water feature in the UK) where families go together to play and socialise and is a key part of the urban regeneration and focal point for this post industrial town. Over the course of a day the public square fills with water to form the pool, which is powered by a large pumping station and network underneath.  We researched the town’s history of working class families visiting Morecambe on holiday or ‘Bradford by the Sea’. as it became known.  The piece is presented as a dystopian industrial beach where after the town’s decline of industry; the machines that once powered the economy now work to provide leisure for the people.

Audiences sit on deckchairs in a collective and focused listening experience in an especially built sound space; the aim being to encourage listeners to hear unfamiliar sounds and consider sound and how we listen in a different way. The listening experience was designed as a coming together and has something of a ritualistic feel enhanced by the lighting and cocooned environment.

  IMAG0614      IMAG0611 
Recording days with Chris Watson, above and below the Mirror Pool

SOUND DESIGN & PRODUCTION

IMAG0848Over 170 individual pieces of audio were recorded on the days with Chris Watson, following a playback day at Leeds Beckett University where we discussed the recordings made, we took these back to the studio to begin the process of listening to the content, grouping and starting to sketch out a sonic narrative for the piece.  These were our initial groupings of audio

  • Dawn chorus (birds, Bradford town centre)
  • Ambient mirror pool recordings, including people/voices (above surface)
  • Town clock chimes
  • Submergence under water (hydrophone recordings -going under water)
  • Descent underground (ambient – darker room lighting)
  • Drones (machines/textures)
  • Rhythmic sounds (mechanical sounds)
  • Electromagnetic buzzing (power station)

To compose the piece we worked with a combination of Ableton and Reaper DAW’s with associated plug-ins and effects. The sonic textures of the piece are quite distinct, from the opening above surface and very naturalistic recordings, through to the whirling descent submerging in the water to the more heavy industrial rhythms and textures. We spent a good few weeks listening to mechanical drones and industrial rhythms to achieve the beneath the surface section where we EQ’d over forty individual tiny audio samples of drones, textures and timbres to spatialise and randomised for a particular flutter section. We also worked with electromagnetic recordings using amplitude modulation and quad panning to achieve movement and dynamism within the piece.

rhythmsIt was the first time we had worked in multi-channel, Pro Audio provided us with a serious surround sound set up in our Noise studio to compose and we invited Danny Saul to collaborate with us and help us realise our production in multi-channel and his expertise in sound design to create the descent segment of the piece. We wanted the audience to experience movement across space, a feeling of submergence, and of being transported or ‘within’ the sounds through this listening experience.

LIGHTING

We were also thrilled to work with Sam Meech who designed the lighting for the installation, creating a visual narrative that enhanced our soundscape to create a theatrical experience for audiences. The lighting was crucial to creating a suspense of reality and a mesmeric experience as the scenes unfolded through evolving colour washes and accents.

Thanks to John O’Shea, Kate Davies and the team at the National Science and Media Museum, Danny Saul, Sam Meech, Alan Dunn and Leeds Beckett students and Steve Cummings.

mpb

The Mirror Pool, Bradford

mock up

Early sketch for installation

 

>Thread {}

Thread {}
A New Generative Textile Collaboration
Vicky Clarke, Sally Gilford, Cheryl O’Meara

Really excited to be working on this new collaborative project with Sally and Cheryl and pushing myself into the area of generative visuals and coding through Processing. Below is an intro to our collective and method and our first commission for Manchester International Festival, a response to Jeremy Deller’s What is the City but the People.

Introducing  >Thread {}

About: > Thread { } is a coding term referencing the digital part of our work, it also represents the physical material and cultural textile heritage of Manchester and The Archive. Thread is a metaphor for the weaving of digital, analogue and historical processes and critiques the disposability of consumerist mass manufacturing through interdisciplinary personalised artworks and products.

Our Process: Digital imagery generated from human bio data – code infused with numerical personal narratives using Processing – imagery translated into hand screen printed designs – screen prints translated into digital print illustrations – personalised textiles digitally printed and made into artwork/installations/products/

Who we are: >Thread {} brings together the experience and creativity of; Cheryl O’Meara who has an archive of over 50,000 antique textile and wallpaper swatches housed at Islington Mill, Salford. Highly successful as a commercial print designer her ambition is to push the paradigms and boundaries of what fashion and print are and reinvent a new future for fashion, print and self-expression. Sally Gilford is an established artist, print maker and creative practitioner who works with leading establishments such as the Whitworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Arts Council Collection. She is currently working on ground breaking projects with Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research at the University of Manchester, using bio images to create innovative print and surface pattern design. Finally, Vicky Clarke is a digital and sound artist whose practice explores sound and sculpture, space and perception and manifests in installations, public performances and DIY instrument building. She uses sound as a material to explore chaos, chance and interaction. Working with electronic, digital and analogue textures; she has been artist in residence at National Media Museum, STEIM (Amsterdam) Q-02 (Brussels) and most recently performed at Berlin’s CTM Festival exploring human/machine interaction.

 

Manchester International Festival residency

response to ‘What is the City but the People?’

Our recent MIF residency responded to the Jeremy Deller opening piece, ‘What is the City but the People’ allowing us to extract bio data from participants via a pulsometer, this real time data was weaved together with our original code to generate digital patterns and motifs. The numerical values we used within the code were naturally occurring numbers taken from the participants lives.

Examples of this were, lottery win numbers, how many children they had, the number of the factory production line one participant had worked on for 30 years. These unique patterns were then screen printed by hand to give the motifs a human ‘analogue’ element. Lastly they were printed onto fabric and made into a ‘bio print kimono’. Here are some of the original projected images from the rehearsal days with the participants. We intend to develop and explore this method of working with people to create unique artworks, installations and potentially small run product designs.

Delia Derbyshire Archive: Waves Around Edges. Manchester After Hours performance

btsWaves Around Edges is a live response to the Delia Derbyshire archive housed at John Rylands Library. The piece was commissioned by Manchester After Hours as part of the live event ‘Breaking the Sound Barrier’. To develop the piece, I began research within the archive, I was interested in Delia’s ‘juvenile papers’ looking over the physics and geometry books featuring her first explorations into sound. It’s fantastic being able to see drawings of Delia’s sine waves and mathematical equations which had such a profound influence on her process for sound creation. Also in the archive are BBC Radiophonic letters and correspondence and to me most fascinating are the working notes of iconic pieces such as the ‘Inventions for Radio’ . The archive houses an extensive list of tapes which have been digitised. For the piece I wanted to reflect on Delia’s working methods, her technical processes and think about some of the sounds and objects she would have encountered in the Radiophonic workshop that informed her work. For this I want to explore the medium of tape itself, thinking about this as a material and dynamic sound source.

eveI visited Eve Studios in Stockport which has a wealth of ex-BBC Radiophonic workshop equipment and tape machines. Martin and Tom kindly let me contact mic record these working objects. I loved hearing the inner workings of the machines, the clicks and clunks of the buttons, the whirrs and spinning of the tape as it finishes the spool, all had a unique character.

tape deckThese samples formed a both a sequenced section of the performance and inspired the Tape Machine Sculpture I created for the show. The sculpture was a sonified object made of found materials, with heavy steel sections salvaged from a Salford building site. I selected the top piece due its look of a sine wave, the bow i used to play the sculpture had magnetic tape running along the length and I embedded a cassette head within the object for some rewind/fast forward action.

Vicky Clarke at John Rylands Library for Manchester After Hours by Ben Williams

ps1Other composed sounds within the set looked at sound as material including electromagnetic recordings , I wanted to get a sense of electricity, disorientating FM synthesis and also authoritarian educational BBC voices discussing the nature of sound, electricity and magnetic tape to reflect the male dominated world in which Delia worked at that time.

Here is a very short edit (live piece is 20 mins).

Thankyou Delia x

mah

CTM Festival: Music Makers Hacklab @ Native Instruments

MMHL13As part of CTM: Festival for Adventurous Music and Art. Music Makers Hacklab brought together 20 international sound artists, inventors, technologists, artists and musicians for one week to create new musical performances, instruments and concepts to be performed live at the end of the festival; ‘Emotional Invention’ at Hau2, Kreuzberg. The programme was led by Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music and hosted by Native Instruments. Continue reading “CTM Festival: Music Makers Hacklab @ Native Instruments”

Transit Zone Pavillion UDK

ht3For Transit Zone Pavillion, a week long project at UdK sound studies department; we created public art interventions that utilised sound to disrupt the general public at Kreuzberg Hallesches Tor train and U-bahn station. I was one of 10 international artists who had pieces around the station. I wanted to subvert the surveillance camera, taking out the video camera and using a speaker to amplify white noise originally. I wanted to use white noise as a metaphor for the seemingly random and chaotic patterns of movement these transport hubs exhibit. Time constraints led me to use theremin sounds for this interactive object with passing members of the public noticing and playing the surveillance camera; a completely opposite use to its intended function.